Soshanguve community: A tourism perspective
Situated about 25 km to the north of the City of Tshwane CBD, the Soshanguve Township at first glance displays the typical characteristics of any informal settlement, such as crowded habitation, high unemployment, poor infrastructure and a bustle of informal traders. All these bear the remnants of the defunct apartheid system of government during which black people were forcibly removed from the urban centres and re-settled in the outskirts of the cities to fend for themselves (Setswe, 2010). Paradoxically, at the heart of this bleak history lies the rennaissance, a cultural amalgam in the Soshanguve community emanating from the fact that people from different ethnic groups were forced to live together. In other words, the unique historical attribute of Soshanguve Township lies in the fact that it was not designed to accommodate one, but four ethnic groups, hence its name, ‘So’ for Sothos, ‘Sha’ for Shangans, ‘Ngu’ for Ngunis and ‘Ve’ for Vendas. This is the genesis of the rich and diverse cultural heritage (Figs 8.1 and 8.2) of the community. In addition to this historical factor is the special natural advantage that Soshanguve enjoys by having the Tswaing crater and ecological nature reserve within its surroundings.
Figs 8.1. and 8.2. Exhibition of the Soshanguve cultural heritage.
The historical and natural factors mentioned above offer the Soshanguve community a unique competitive advantage over other townships in terms of tourist attractions. Even though the City of Tshwane recognizes the potential for the development of other tourism products in Soshanguve such as architecture, arts, natural environment, culture and heritage, and shopping and entertainment (COT, 2005), its realization is still a distant reality. Substantial economic benefits from tourism have not accrued to the local people, especially because bus-loads of tourists pass through the community to the Tswaing crater and ecological reserve without stopping in the community or interacting with the local people. Evidence of the economic deprivation and social imbalance between the City of Pretoria and the township is visible in the high unemployment rate, which stands at above 40% (Setshedi, 2007). This is the principal motivation of this study, which proposes an urban-rural tourism mix between the City of Pretoria and the community of Soshanguve. The successful implementation of such a strategy will not only enrich tourist experiences in the City of Tshwane but also alleviate poverty and unemployment in the community of Soshanguve. Furthermore, the successful development of a composite tourism product for the City of Pretoria and Soshanguve Township is likely to increase the competitiveness of the City of Tshwane as a tourist destination with more diverse attractions.